Pastor's Blog

Sometimes I think that my best messages are the ones I preach in the car on the way home from church!  So my blog gives me the opportunity to follow up with some afterthoughts.  It’s all the things I wish I would have said on Sunday morning.  Other times, it’s just things I’m still processing that have nothing to do with my last message.


So thanks for reading my ramblings.  I hope you get something from them!

 

Wayne Okamoto

Pastor


The Voices of Two Women

August 10, 2022


This morning I was reading in Proverbs 9.  What struck me was the purposeful similarities of the voice of Wisdom and the voice of Folly.  Listen to them speak:

Proverbs 9:1-6: The voice of Wisdom

1 Wisdom has built her house;
    she has hewn her seven pillars.
2 She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine;
    she has also set her table.
3 She has sent out her young women to call
    from the highest places in the town,
4 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
    To him who lacks sense she says,
5 “Come, eat of my bread
    and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6 Leave your simple ways, and live,
    and walk in the way of insight.”


Proverbs 9:13-18: The voice of Folly (portrayed as a prostitute)
13 The woman Folly is loud;
    she is seductive and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house;
    she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
15 calling to those who pass by,
    who are going straight on their way,
16 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
    And to him who lacks sense she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet,
    and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
18 But he does not know that the dead are there,
    that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.


Note the similarities: Both Wisdom and Folly are portrayed as women.  Both call from “the highest point of the city” (vv.3 & 14).  Both cry out, “Let all who are simple come to my house!” (vv.4 & 16).  Both speak “to those who have no sense” (vv.4 & 16).  Both promise a luscious banquet of food and drink (vv.5 & 17).

But then the results are in stark contrast: God’s wisdom leads to life, while folly leads to death.

So what can we learn from this?

In many ways, every human being is simple and in need of wisdom.  However, some will seek the wisdom which comes from God.  Others, either consciously or by default, will seek the folly that comes from the world and from our own flesh.

In addition, sometimes the call of God’s wisdom and the call of folly from the world (and from our flesh) may, on the surface, seem similar.  But their foundations and results are polar opposites.  We need God’s Spirit and His discernment to seek out the wisdom which truly comes from Him and not be fooled by the call of the world, the devil, and/or our own flesh.

Finally, both God and the world (and/or our flesh) seem to promise the same: a banquet of food and drink, i.e.—the fulfillment of joy and pleasure.  In one sense, both deliver.  However, God’s banquet leads to lasting joy and fulfillment—i.e., true life.  The world and our flesh only gives us temporary joy and pleasure and leads to ultimate death.

So what must we do?  Pray for God’s wisdom and His Spirit’s discernment, spend time in His Word listening to the true voice of Wisdom, and then, choose life!

The Highland Park Shooting

July 6, 2022


Lately it seems that every week the News reports on another mass shooting here in America.  It’s all too easy to become numb to these horrific tragedies.  But Monday was different.  The shooting in Highland Park was a sobering reminder that evil is not just something that occurs in other places in our country.  Evil is present in our own backyard.

This latest shooting will once again reignite the debate on issues such as gun control and government-sponsored programs for emotional and psychological support.  People on both sides of these issues will debate on the pros and cons of the merits and constitutional legality of various laws and programs.

But how should we view this tragedy Biblically?  Here are a few perspectives to keep in mind:

God is sovereign  What makes these shootings so unsettling is that they do not make sense and seem both tragically random and shockingly evil.  When people are killed in a car accident or in a natural disaster, we can make sense of the cause of these deaths.  Even when people are killed in a burglary, we can at least understand the circumstances of the injustice.  But mass shootings like the one in Highland Park don’t make sense.  So it can be easy to feel like life is just out of control.  But that is when we must remember that God is in control.  Psalm 115:2-3 says, “Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’ Our God is in the heavens; he does all that He pleases.”  God is not absent or distracted.  God is in control of all things—even in control of evil.  He is not the source nor the cause of evil, but no evil can occur without first passing through the sovereign hand of God.

Demonic activity  Even people who are not Christ-followers have labeled these shootings as “pure evil”; and they are correct.  When we read the New Testament, we read accounts of Jesus and the apostles casting out demons.  Our tendency is to think that demonic activity only occurred in Bible days or that it is limited to certain third world countries.  But Satan and his demonic forces are just as active here in the U.S. as they were back in Bible days.  Therefore, to truly help people who could potentially commit these horrific shootings, we must address not just their emotional and psychological issues, but also the spiritual dimension of their lives.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only true hope for the world.

God’s discipline  Last Sunday I read Jeremiah 12:16-17 where God says of foreign nations, “And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, ‘As the Lord lives,’ even as they taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be built up in the midst of my people. But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the Lord.”  I believe that God is allowing these tragedies in order to get our nation’s attention and to turn our hearts back to Him.  When you read the Old Testament prophets, their message to the foreign nations was similar to God’s message to Israel—to turn back to Yahweh.  God is calling this nation back to Himself.

What can we do?  It’s easy to feel helpless when we see these tragedies unfold.   But even though God is sovereign, it does not mean we are called to do nothing; just the opposite!  We who are Christ-followers are the ones who know the ultimate solution.  So we of all people must act!  But what can we do? 

  • First, we must pray.  We far underestimate the power of our prayers.  We may not want to admit this, but I think many of us can tend to think of prayer as the ministry of old ladies while the real work of ministry is accomplished by those who get things done.  But Jesus, the omnipotent Son of God, was a man of prayer.  If we are going to change the world as He did, we must pray.  One simple way is to join us for our Hope prayer times.  Whether that be before our Sunday morning worship service or once a month for our Evening of Worship & Prayer, join us!
  • Secondly, we must answer the call to share our faith.  As I just mentioned, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world.  God tells us that we are Christ’s ambassadors, entrusted with the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  What if someone reached out to the individual who committed the Highland Park shooting?  What if they took the time to befriend him and share the gospel with him?  Friends, we are not helpless.  We have in our hearts the solution to the world’s problems--but will we boldly take the initiative to love people and to share that life-transforming truth?  Perhaps you are not sure where to begin.  Then join a Hope outreach cohort!  It’s far too easy to talk about the need to reach the unchurched than to be involved in doing it.  Let’s be doers of Christ’s commission and not just hearers only!

A Confession of Your Identity

June 21, 2022


This past Sunday we concluded our message series, “Discovering Our New Identity.”  As we wrapped up this series, we read aloud together a confession of that new identity which was based on Ephesians 1-3.  I want to encourage all of you to read this statement aloud daily for the next month during your time with the Lord.  Meditate on these truths.  And if there is a portion of this confession that particularly strikes you, take the time to read the related passage in Ephesians.  In addition, if you missed any of the messages in this series, I encourage you to either listen to the message on our website or watch a video of the worship service on our YouTube channel page.  At the end of this email, I included a chart that can help you determine which message you missed.

May these truths transform the way you view yourself!  Here’s the confession:

As a child of God, set apart for Christ, I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.  God cherishes me so much that He chose me before the foundation of the world and adopted me into His holy family.
(1:1-6)

I have been redeemed, forgiven from sin, and ransomed from the bondage of sin and death.  My worth is not determined by anything I have accomplished; rather my worth and significance is defined by what God has accomplished for me in Christ.  God treasures and values me so much that He was willing to pay the price of His own Son to purchase my redemption; that is what defines my worth. (1:7-10)

God views me as His inheritance—His chosen, treasured possession.  Therefore, God is working out all the details of my life according to His good and perfect will that I might be to the praise of His glory.  God has also sealed me with His Spirit, who has been given to me as a deposit, guaranteeing that I will receive the riches of His inheritance. (1:11-14)

God has created me to know Him, to fulfill His calling, to experience the riches of His glorious inheritance, and to live with His infinitely great power. (1:15-22)

I have been rescued from the bondage of the world, Satan, and my own flesh.  My salvation is a free gift of God’s grace through faith, not as a result of any good works of my own.  I am God’s wonderful workmanship, created to do good works, which God Himself will give me power to accomplish. (2:1-5)

God has raised me out of death into a new life in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, God views me as already seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.  My identity is not defined by my past nor my present, but rather who God knows I will be for eternity, seated with Christ at His throne and at His table. (2:6-10)

God has reconciled me to Himself, calling me to also seek reconciliation in all the relationships with everyone around me. (2:11-22)

I have been commissioned by God to share Christ with others, to minister in His power, and to tell others how they can be truly rich in Christ and have free access to God. (3:1-13)

God wants me to be strengthened with His power, filled with His Spirit, empowered to comprehend the incomprehensible love of Christ, and filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (3:14-19)

Because of God’s infinite power, He can and will accomplish all these things and more to the praise of His glory! (3:20-21)
 

4/24/22: Ephesians 1:1-6
5/1/2022: Ephesians 1:7-10
5/8/2022: Ephesians 1:11-14
5/15/2022: Ephesians 1:15-23
5/29/2022: Ephesians 2:11-22
6/5/2022: Ephesians 3:1-13
6/12/2022**: Ephesians 2:1-10
6/19/2022: Ephesians 3:14-21

The Incomparable Riches of God's Grace

June 16, 2022


What a wonderful outdoor worship & baptism service we had last Sunday!  I forgot to mention that all three children who were baptized took the initiative to ask their parents to be baptized, i.e., their parents did not ask them if they wanted to be baptized, rather it was a decision they made on their own initiative!  Granted, Brian Clements had taught them about baptism in their Sunday morning class (thanks, Brian!  You are doing a great job teaching our Hope kids!), but by the fact that they took the initiative on their own made the time even more special!

As part of my message last Sunday, we looked Ephesians 2:6 which says, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

It’s an amazing thought to realize that God has seated us with Christ in the heavenly realms!  I encourage you to mediate on that truth and let it sink into the deepest recesses of your being!  Let it define you!  Remember, your identity will determine your actions.  What you think about yourself will determine how you act and what you do.

But a second encouraging truth is stated in v. 7:
“in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” 

As I pondered this verse, I wondered why and how God will continue to show us the incomparable riches of His grace in kindness in the ages to come when at that time, we will be perfect and will no longer sin.

Since we will no longer sin in the new heaven and new earth, we will no longer need a fresh experience of forgiveness in response to our confession of current sins. However, the continual experience of God’s kindness and goodness will cause our hearts to repeatedly well up in gratitude knowing that everything we are experiencing is undeserved.  Perhaps in those days, we will have a greater awareness of our state of depravity in which we wallowed before coming to Christ.  Paul already mentioned this in Ephesians 2:1-3.  In fact, pause and think for a moment—where would you be today if Christ had not rescued you?  I shudder as I think about that.  The only thing that separates us from a life of darkness and bondage versus a life of light and freedom is the incomparable grace of God.

But in addition, in the ages to come we will have an increasing knowledge and experience of the wondrous, infinite goodness and kindness of God.  Because of what we now know of the universe, we have an easier time imagining the infinite power and knowledge of God, even though our understanding is still so limited.  However, what is like for Jesus to be infinitely kind?  Are we just as awestruck by His infinite kindness and goodness as we are by His infinite power and knowledge?  In the ages to come, we will come to know with richer understanding the depths of the infinite kindness of Jesus.  It will once again, cause us to fall on our knees in worship of His unmerited favor which has allowed us to experience His boundless love and kindness.

But I also think that this verse reflects how overwhelming wonderful our experience will be in the new heaven and new earth.  As we approach each new vista of God’s re-creation and as we experience pure, overflowing joy in living our new glorious lives, we will not only be awed by the wonder and majesty of God and His re-creation, we will also be overwhelmed as we think about in the incomparable riches of God’s unmerited favor in freely giving us this undeserved gift of a new life in Christ.

In the meantime, while we are still on this earth, let us live by faith as we look forward to that time.  Let us allow our hearts to be filled with songs of adoration and praise as we thank God for the “incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” both in this life, and in the ages to come!